Company director who scammed pensioners convicted of fraud
Posted on: 27 September 2016
A company director who offered to clean carpets at rock-bottom prices before hiking them up by 1,000 per cent has been found guilty of fraud.
At Exeter Crown Court on Friday 23 September, Adam Joseph Vallier, 34, of Hannington Road, Pokesdown, Bournemouth, was convicted of misleading consumers following a five-day trial.
The successful prosecution follows an investigation by Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service.
Vallier traded under A Star Carpet Cleaning Ltd and Premier Carpet Cleaning Ltd from addresses in Dorset and Bournemouth during 2014 and 2015.
He travelled around the country, including Newton Abbot, Teignmouth, Torquay, Paignton, Worthing and West Sussex, targeting predominantly elderly householders and enticing them with a ‘special offer’ to clean two carpets for £19.
Once he or his operatives got their foot in the door, the price then rose by up to £200 – a scam known as ‘bait and switch’.
Vallier, the ‘controlling mind’ of the businesses, was also found guilty of falsely claiming membership of trade associations including the National Carpet Cleaning Association, Woolsafe Ltd and Prochem Europe Ltd.
He wrote and published bogus customer testimonials to give the impression that he was an honest trader, and falsely claimed that his operatives were qualified when they were not.
Vallier used different tactics to try and persuade his victims to use his services including claiming that carpets had ‘moths’.
The consumers were not adequately told of their rights to a ‘cooling off’ period during which they could cancel the contract.
This was despite Vallier receiving advice from a local authority about fair trading on at least two occasions.
The prosecution said that the ‘policy was not to bring the right to cancel to the attention of the consumer in anyway.’
The work itself was not professionally done with items of furniture not moved, with his employees working around them.
Vallier traded under similar names to established business which then bore the brunt of complaints from disgruntled customers.
The prosecution said: “The barrier is the front door. The never-ending promotion of £19 gets them inside. This was a ruse to break down the barrier.”
Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards, said: “Vallier abused his power and his victims’ trust, many of which were elderly. He ignored complaints that his customers were being mislead and failed to amend the system which was set up to commit the fraud. “This is an excellent result for the Trading Standards team.”
Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Deputy Leader with responsibility for Trading Standards, said: “This conviction sends a clear message to those traders who systematically flout the law. The importance of using recognised, suitably qualified and accredited tradesmen should not be underestimated. We would advise anyone who is considering having work done in their home to go to our Buy with Confidence website to find a list of approved traders in their area.”
Vallier will be sentenced on Wednesday 21 October.
If you think you have been a victim of a scam you can report it to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506 or report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040
Posted in: Business and Economy | Community | Environment